Meet our newest 500px Prime Creator and learn more about how Licensing is creating a more inclusive world through visual storytelling.
Originally from Russia, Natalie Zotova is currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Natalie shoots various genres of photography, ranging from wedding photography to food, product, and lifestyle content. With over 18 years of experience, Natalie’s Licensing content stands out for its technical and creative approach. As a Licensing Contributor and commercial photographer, Natalie understands the importance of communicating to various consumer markets. Her Portfolio illustrates a variety of demographics and themes that fill gaps within commercial advertising.
500px is thrilled to have Natalie as a 500px Prime Creator, and be able to recognize her as an exemplary content creator for the 500px Licensing Collection.
Q: Hello! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
A: I am Natalie. I love to travel, meet new people, and, of course, I love photography. I use photography as a way to express myself and to create beauty. In my practice, I do commercial shoots, stock photography, tutorials, and run my own blog on Instagram. I love to help people learn new photography skills and develop their practice.
Q: We are excited to have you as a 500px Prime Creator. Your Licensing Portfolio has an impressive 2,700+ photos. Can you share your experience with 500px Licensing and how it began?
A: It started when my boyfriend told me about Grants on 500px. The first Grant I participated in was the Intersectional Diversity Grant. He suggested that I submit some of my work. The prize was a $1000 Grant to develop a larger shoot to be part of the 500px Licensing collection. I decided to give it a go! At that time, I already had an account on 500px.com, but just a couple of photos were uploaded. It was a pleasant surprise when I found out that I was chosen to receive the Grant money. Since then, I have become more involved in Grants and Quests, and continue to submit more photos to Licensing.
Q: You have produced numerous stunning commercial photoshoots for 500px Licensing. Can you share with us where you draw your inspiration for your lifestyle shoots?
A: Usually, the 500px Quest themes give me inspiration. Sometimes there are topics that I have never considered shooting before, and it becomes a fun challenge for me. I start planning the right people and the right location. However, people are also my inspiration. Sometimes I just know when someone I meet would be perfect for a 500px Quest photoshoot. I get excited, and I hope that, with their participation, I could win the Quest. Then I ask these people to be my models.
Q: Commercial advertising is constantly evolving. Consumers today are advocating for content that promotes diversity and authenticity. What are your thoughts on these changes and how do they affect you as a photographer?
A: I really like this kind of content because it’s true, it’s real, it’s not embellished. We are who we are, stop wearing masks and impersonating someone else. This concept is very close to me. I love naturalness, real faces, real emotions, real life. But still, we are used to looking at beauty shots and are attracted to perfection. Therefore, one must be able to show diversity and authenticity, in a balanced way, from the typically beauty driven cinematic side.
Q: We feel that your Portfolio is an excellent example of intentional casting that feels authentic and genuine. The photo above was submitted as part of the 500px Intersectional Diversity Grant series you shot. Can you tell us about your artistic vision for this shoot?
A: The photo is of my friend Julia. I love the genre of boudoir photography—this is the creative part of my work, typically non-commercial. I suggested a photoshoot to my friend because her skin is unique. She was a little uncomfortable with the idea at first, but I wanted to show her how beautiful she is. I did this by focusing and drawing attention to her unique features.
Recently, I met with another friend of mine, and he told me that the way I capture people in my photos is unique, and he wanted to know how I do it. My secret is showing a person as is, and to not interfere with them being themselves. With my models, I find something that I can admire, and I capture it. Every person is unique and beautiful—my goal is to show this.
Q: The photographer and model relationship is important. Can you share any tips on how you make your models feel comfortable while on a shoot?
A: Yes, I know a few tricks.
1. You need to praise your models. Consider saying “super, well done, very good” These words will give them confidence.
2. You need to give validation. Say things like “you are very beautiful / you are very photogenic / you are such a beautiful couple / you move very well in the frame” This will help the person relax and loosen up.
3. Clearly communicate what you want your models to do. Remember that not all your models will be comfortable in front of the camera and instinctively know what to do and where to put their hands or how to pose. Come up with a shot list and a plan in advance—write down in your notes the actions that you will ask your model to do and demonstrate it if need be.
4. Find reference photos to show your models—point out specific poses and what facial expressions to make.
5. Specify the mood that you want evoked in your shoots. For example, in my past couple photoshoots, I asked the woman to imagine that she was a princess leading her prince through her garden of roses. She immediately changed her facial expression, became more confident, more beautiful, straightened her posture and walked with a beautiful gait.
6. If you are filming a family, I find that it is better to only interfere when necessary. Direct the overarching idea and state what you want them to do, but then watch their relationship through the camera.
Q: We appreciate how many of your Licensing photoshoots feature various industries and workplace settings. This type of content is hard to plan and execute. Can you describe the process of planning and finding these locations and models?
A: These kinds of photoshoots are best done when you are acquaintances with someone in a certain field. Businesses usually need photos for their websites and social media accounts. Often it is possible to cooperate on a barter basis. I just give them photos.
I shot a marijuana plantation recently. I find that it is more difficult for a foreigner to get access to this production type where I am located in Thailand. Therefore, I asked my Thai friend to help me find this plantation. I paid her for her work, and I also paid the farmer.
Q: How do you go about scheduling and working around a business’ schedule?
A: It is typically different every time. In the case of shooting the plantation, my friend, as an agent, organized everything.
For a cosmetology shoot I did recently, the cosmetologist first searched for a client to be the model. She then adjusted her schedule so that it was convenient for both of us and her.
Q: Once you confirm a business/service to shoot, are there any requirements or restrictions you require?
A: My requirements are that I can erase any identified branding within the frame. Usually, I stick the inscriptions myself or remove them in Photoshop. The business typically asks for the photos as-is, with no branding erased, and maybe some extra footage they need for advertising.
Q: How do you approach the subject of Licensing with your models?
A: How do I find models? The methods are different. Sometimes I text a certain person, and sometimes I look for people in chats or groups.
First, I text someone who fits what I am looking for. Then I explain the logistics such as the photos being taken for 500px. I explain everything in detail—where these photos will be placed, and where they can be used in the future. It does happen that people refuse—they do not want their photos to be publicly available on the Internet.
Then, I just look for other people. Sometimes I ask my acquaintances what they are most concerned about and their reason for refusal. I talk them through their fears and concerns and help them understand the nature of Licensing better.
Q: How do you approach storytelling as a photographer?
A: Telling a story cannot happen without a script. Therefore, I always work off of a script. I make sure it is logical and realistic. I definitely use different angles—wide, medium, and close-up shots. My models are not actors, so these scenarios are as simple as possible.
Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do to get the perfect shot?
A: I didn’t do anything particularly strange. When I photograph landscapes and nature photography, I often climb high rocks to get the best angle. I often walk into the water or into the mud, so, I make sure that I am wearing work clothes. I had a case when I was shooting a girl on a destroyed dam and the stones on which I stood began to move down—I fell and hit myself and hit the camera. But everything worked out. Now I walk more carefully on the stones.
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